The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awarded its 2020 Guggenheim Fellowships to four writers, a photographer and a composer from Texas. Five of the Texas winners are from Austin with three on the faculty of the University of Texas.
The Texas winners are Oscar Cácares, Jeff Goodell, Lacy M. Johnson, Lisa Olstein, Bryan Schutmaat and Yevgeniy Sharlat.
Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is an associate professor at UT, was also awarded a Fellowship in the field of drama and performance art.
The fellowship is awarded annually to mid-career professionals who have “already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.” In all, this year’s Guggenheim Fellowships were awarded to 175 writers, scholars, artists, and scientists.
A bequest in 2019 from the estate of novelist Philip Roth, a Guggenheim Fellow in 1959, is providing partial support for the wide variety of writers supported by the Foundation.
- Oscar Cásares, writer, Austin, Texas; Associate Professor of English, University of Texas at Austin. Field: Fiction
Cásares writes about life on the U.S.-Mexico border, but in a larger sense, he gives voice to what it means to live simultaneously in two worlds, moving amid languages, cultures, and identities. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is the author of Amigoland and Brownsville, which was selected by the American Library Association as a Notable Book of 2004. His most recent novel is Where We Come From. His current project involves developing a lexicon of the U.S.-Mexico border, one that reflects the distinct ways his characters often express themselves in two languages at once. The lexicon entries will be defined with short narratives that together create a more complex story.
- Jeff Goodell, Writer, Austin, Texas. Field: General Nonfiction
Goodell’s most recent book, The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World (Little, Brown, 2017), was a New York Times Critics Top Book of 2017. He is the author of five previous books, including How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth’s Climate (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010) and Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006). He is a long-time contributing editor at Rolling Stone, where he has been writing about climate change for more than a decade.
- Lacy M. Johnson, Writer, Houston, Texas; Assistant Professor of English in Creative Writing, Rice University. Field: General Nonfiction
Johnson is a Houston-based professor, curator, activist, and is author of the essay collection The Reckonings, the memoir The Other Side — both National Book Critics Circle Award finalists — and the memoir Trespasses. Her writing has appeared in the The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Paris Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House, Guernica, and elsewhere. Her current project, a book-length essay, examines how prevailing ideas about “nature” contain within them implicit permission to commit violence against the environment and one another. Born in Iowa and raised in rural Missouri, Johnson worked as a cashier at Wal-Mart, sold steaks door-to-door, and puppeteered with a traveling children’s museum before earning a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from University of Houston. She is the Founding Director of The Houston Flood Museum.
- Lisa Olstein, Poet, Austin, Texas; Professor, Department of English, University of Texas at Austin. Field: Poetry
Olstein is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Late Empire (Copper Canyon Press, 2017), and a book-length lyric essay, Pain Studies (Bellevue Literary Press, 2020). Her other books include: Radio Crackling, Radio Gone (Copper Canyon Press 2006), winner of the Hayden Carruth Award; Lost Alphabet (Copper Canyon Press 2009), a Library Journal best book of the year; and Little Stranger (Copper Canyon Press 2013), a Lannan Literary Selection. Lisa’s work has been recognized with a Pushcart Prize, Lannan Writing Residency, Essay Press chapbook prize, and fellowships from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Centrum. She is a member of the poetry faculty at the UT where she teaches in the New Writers Project and Michener Center for Writers MFA programs.
- Bryan Schutmaat, Photographer, Austin, Texas. Field: Photography
Schutmaat is a photographer whose work has been extensively exhibited and published in the United States and abroad. He has won numerous awards, including the Aperture Portfolio Prize, an Aaron Siskind Individual Photographer’s Fellowship, and Center’s Gallerist Choice Award. His first monograph, Grays the Mountain Sends, was published by the Silas Finch Foundation in 2013 to international critical acclaim. Bryan has also published Islands of the Blest (2014) and Good Goddamn (2017). He holds a BA in history from the University of Houston and an MFA in photography from Hartford Art School. His work is in many public collections, such as Baltimore Museum of Art; The Hood Museum of Art; Middlebury College Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Pier 24 Photography; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
- Yevgeniy Sharlat, Composer, Austin, Texas; Associate Professor of Composition, University of Texas at Austin. Field: Music Composition
Sharlat has composed music for orchestra, chamber ensembles, solo, theater, dance, mechanical sculptures, and animations. He has written string quartets for Kronos, Aeolus, Aizuri and Amphion Quartets. His music has been played by such groups as Kremerata Baltica, Seattle Symphony, NOW Ensemble, Hub New Music, Seattle Chamber Players, Quodlibet Ensemble, and many others. He was among the composers commissioned by the Kronos Quartet for its “Fifty for the Future” project. His RIPEFG appeared on Aizuri Quartet’s Grammy-nominated album Blueprints.He collaborated with prominent choreographers Lar Lubovitch, Donald Byrd, and Caron Eule, as well as a renowned dancer Lil Buck. Born in Moscow, Russia, Sharlat came to the United States as a refugee at age 16.